Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gimme Shelter (and Keeping the Internet Free)

I was pleased to stumble across the website for the Gimme Shelter project tonight.  I participated in this art show back in 2006.  Five years later, they still have their site and all the tremendous art which was created in archival form for you to see at your convenience.  Artists from all over the world painted and drew on cardboard to raise money for homeless charities.  The work went on a touring exhibit across the U.S. and Europe, where the pieces were auctioned off.  The ones not sold at the shows were sold on Ebay.  This was an artistic prompt which I could not ignore...

One of my donated works from 2006... mixed media on cardboard

At least once a week I'm brought to a realization of the magnificent power of the internet.   Artistic projects can be documented though online galleries, time lapse videos, blogs, etc.  The internet not only gives us the power to share but to also archive our experiences for generations to come.

While we wield this power of global communication and sharing, it is in extreme danger today.  Net neutrality is being stripped from our basic rights as we speak.  We already know that the internet is severely censored in other countries such as China.  This is mainly due to their need to shelter the public from critical views of their government and social structure for fear of organization and rebellion against it.  The United Nations have placed freedom of speech and religion at the forefront of what is defined as basic human rights.  Our own country was founded on these ideals as well.

Wikileaks has brought the issue of net neutrality into debate world-wide now.  I urge you to look through the smoke and around the mirrors and focus on the important issue at hand while all this transpires.  We are the audience and will live with the outcome.  Our government as well as others in the world are pressuring companies to do everything in their power to shut down this single website.  The content of this site (however you may feel about it) aside, it is perfectly legal to provide a forum for this information to be shared.  This week, under urging from governments affected by this information, companies such as Amazon stopped providing hosting for this website without justification.  Mastercard, Visa and PayPal have cut off use of their services to make donations to Wikileaks, severing the site's financial influx which keeps it hosted and alive.  These are actions by companies which should be completely neutral in such affairs, but are making biased decisions and dissolving the concept of net neutrality as we know it. 

What happens next year when your website or social networking profile can be hijacked, investigated, and removed for speaking out against capitalism or American ideology?  What happens when you can be charged as a terrorist for donating money to a cause you believe in (but goes against what the government prefers?)  We have to voice our opinions while we have the freedom of speech and thought still in tact (in person and in digital form.)  No matter your political stance or opinion of Wikileaks, acknowledge today that governments and businesses have NO place in deciding the content you access on the internet, just as they cannot ban a book or stop you from speaking on the street, or stop you from organizing.  You don't need to be sheltered from the freedom to inform yourself and in-turn speak your mind.

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